Low and No Alcohol Drinks Explained

What’s ABV%? What is a non-alc versus a low alc? What does AF mean?

Here’s a brief overview rules, terms what they all mean.

A summary of the terms and rules around the claims of a drink being Non-alcoholic or Alcohol-free*

ABV = alcohol % by volume

AF = Alcohol-free

NA = Non-alcoholic

ABV

1. ABV% ( alcohol by volume) tells you how much alcohol is in a measure of a drink. The ABV % is defined as the number of MLS of pure alcohol found in 100ml of the drink. As an example, a bottle of wine may have 14% ABV, meaning in every 100mls, there are 14mls of pure alcohol (ethanol).

Many of the new ‘alcohol-free’ drinks have 0.5% ABV or less on the label. WHY? It is NZ and AUS law (and in most other countries).

If a food or drink contains even 1.15%-0.5% ABV, it must be stated on the label ( that’s why you see it on Kombucha as an example). However, worth noting that some everyday foods & drinks ( such as ripe bananas, fruit juices, and even some bread) contain similar amounts and are not labeled.

Low Alcohol

3. If a product has less than 1.15%, it can be labeled low alcohol. If it has any more, it cannot. It must also include a warning for pregnant drinkers.

Alcohol Free

4. If a product contains ANY alcohol, it cannot officially be called Alcohol-free. However, the term is widely used unofficially, but not usually on fruit 🙂

Any mention on this site for  ‘Alcohol-free’ (AF) drinks means I am referring to a drink that has 0.5% or less.  As far as possible, I always try to add the ABV%.

Context

To give some context: 

  • Wine tends to have between 10.5%-15% ABV.
  • Spirits – 25%-90%
  • ABVBeer – 4%-6% ABV or more. 
  • Angustouro Bitters contains 44.7% ABV.

That is, if you were to drink 100mls, it would be 44.7% pure alcohol.

A few drops in lime and soda would be way less than 0.5% ABV.

Alcohol-Free Alternatives

6. When to try Alcohol-free alternatives?

On a personal note: After I quit drinking, I waited 3 months before trying anything that had any alcohol in it, even Kombucha which often has 0.5% ABV or less.  Since then, I have found great joy in having ‘alcohol-free’ alternatives.

They allow me to create a healthy ritual and I feel like I am having a treat or reward, without all the downsides.

Personally I am not triggered to go back to the real thing, and I love that I can have these experiences without the negative effects of alcohol.

IMPORTANT

PLEASE NOTE: Whilst some are comfortable and safe to drink ‘alcohol-free’ alternatives, they may not always be suitable. Some options do emulate the alcoholic versions & may give sensory cues that you may find triggering if you are battling alcohol dependency. 

If this is the case, fear not! There are some amazing completely alcohol-free adult options that do not try to ‘be like’ anything else.

Etchsparkling, Altina craftcocktails, Non and Tost (to name a few). You can explore what’s available via the link below.

I hope you find this info helpful and reassuring. *Information gathered from Food Standards Australia/NZ

Sarah Connelly

Sarah Connelly

Sarah is the Founder of Tapped In and has been writing and blogging about alcohol-free alternatives and lifestyle since October 2019. She's no pro, but she does her best.

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